Buddama is a rural village lying off Siyambalanduwa and Wadinagala on Ampara Road. The temple at the bottom of Buddamahela is set on a beautiful backdrop this temple complex with a history which can be traced back to pre-Christian times.
An inscription at one of the drip ledges has been dated to a period between the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century. History records the donation of villages to the temple by the regional king Udaya I (883 – 896) of the southern region, the creation of administrative divisions centred around the Buddama Temple by King Parakramabahu I (1153-1186) and renovations carried out by Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe (1747 – 1781).
As you enter the temple you will see the pure white stupa which has been built recently surrounding the ancient stupa.
Next is the living quarters of the priests and on the right-hand side is a drip ledge cave with an inscription just below the ledge. This is called the ‘Heen Viharaya” inscription and records the donation of the cave to the Sanga by an educator named Gupta, the grandson of village councillor Vasaba and the son of Sumana. Written in Old Sinhala language in early Brahmi Script, this inscription was placed in a period between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century.
The third level of the temple consists of the ancient cave image house, Bo tree and a number of drip ledge caves. Unfortunately, the image house was closed but after speaking to the head priest, an old gentleman came with us to open the image house. A reclining Buddha statue occupies the length of the image house belonging to the Kandyan Era. Once you enter the image house you can understand why the image house is kept locked. Almost all the statues have been vandalized by treasure hunters. The chest and the head of the large image have been destroyed and are now filled with cement.
Two more clay Buddha statues at the head of the reclining Buddha have also been destroyed by treasure hunters and have been reconstructed. An unusually placed lion sculpture hiding behind the head of the main Buddha statue also can be seen in its original paint.
But the most unique feature of this site is the “Weli Peella“, a sand board equivalent of a blackboard used to teach letter writing in ancient times. Built during the Kandyan kingdom, this Weli Peella is one of the very few existing today and the only one in Uva Province. This Peela is 14 feet long, 2 feet high, 2’3” wide and made of a clay structure. A fine layer of white sand is spread on the top of this structure which lies inside a cave which would have served as the classroom.
Based on information given by the same old gentleman, the original temple was at the top of the Buddama Hela hill but due to the difficulties faced by the layman to reach the temple, the current temple has been built at the bottom of the rock during the period of Kandyan Kingdom. About 20 more caves with drip ledges are said to be lying scattered on this hill. Some of them have inscriptions but none of them have been read.
It is believed that some of these caves have been used to teach various industries in ancient times based on the names used even today. One such cave is called Ridi Lena (Cave of Silver) which probably was a learning centre for the silver industry. Another called Waduge Lena ( Carpenter Cave) probably a training center on carpentry.
Unfortunately, no formal study has been done on the caves surrounding the hill and not much restoration seems to have taken place at the cave temple and the ancient painting seems to be fading.
Map of Monaragala Buddama Rajamaha Viharaya
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Driving Directions to Monaragala Buddama Rajamaha Viharaya
|Route from Monaragala to Buddama Rajamaha Viharaya
|Through : Siyambalanduwa
Distance : 53 km
Travel Time : 1 hour
Driving Directions : see on Google map